Quarantine Zen Queen 8: Day Of The Dread

There were two dark days among the fourteen. It would be a lie to pretend it was a breeze from end to end, and I stopped lying about my mental health a couple of years ago. On day nine, things started off with my favourite ritual of sitting on the balcony watching the pink, fluffy, post-dawn skyscape with coffee and a sense of wonder. I put everything into an early hour of Sri Sri yoga and followed up with his twenty minute guided meditation called, ironically as it turned out, ‘Contentment’.

Room service was bang on time and the chef had been particularly creative with the veggie breakfast, so I snarfed down the couscous-stuffed baked tomato and broccoli accras with relish – well, actually with the Baron’s pepper sauce that my lovely young friends had delivered early on. A daily dose of 100,000+ Scoville units was exactly what my tastebuds needed to remind themselves of their purpose, even if the searing scotch bonnets made by nose run every now and again.

The Nurses came around and declared another encouraging 95.7, admired my newly-gifted Saint Lucia t-shirt – the silky-soft blue one with that matched my newly cut-off jeans shorts so well – then continued on their morning round of knocking doors and pointing that super wee gadget at a hundred foreheads. For the nineteenth time, I was thankful not to have to stand there with a glass thermometer under my tongue, waiting for the mercury to slide into place. Even more so, not to have to bend over for that other type of temperature testing.

A bout of OCD room-cleaning came next, or at least a good wipe down with a damp handtowel to remove the layer of dust that seemed to settle every day on the wooden furniture. Where it came from was a mystery, but removing it gave me a sense of purpose and an insight into what our national cadre of room attendants dealt with on a massive scale during their crucial but under-appreciated careers.

Then I made the calamitous mistake of flicking on my phone and checking the latest social media malarkey. It was day one of Saint Lucia’s national 24/7 curfew, announced the previous evening in the PM’s address to the nation – or at least to those citizens who could be arsed to watch it. After the brutal news was delivered, a few of the quarant-inmates had made some noise from their balconies and broken the rule by whacking up the Dennery Segment decibels until late. I could hardly hold it against them, given the mostly stellar behaviour being exhibited around the block by then.

So it should have been no surprise to find the avalanche of polarised posts – swinging from appeals for god’s blessings on government to the poison-pen trolling that characterised Saint Lucia’s sectarian approach to politics. Clearly, many people were taken aback by the abruptness of the announcement. Just as clearly, some of them had had their dunderheads in the sand for the past week, since curfew had been introduced and swiftly extended due to the stinking anti-social behaviour of some of our citizens. Just as he’d promised on Sunday, March 29, such selfish acts of lawlessness would be the driving force for clamping down further. The man had just stuck to his promise.

The anxiety started ratcheting up notch by notch as I broke my own promise not to take ‘them’ onboard, then erupted full pelt as I speed-read a few of the lectures and homilies from the coulda-woulda-shoulda crowd. It’s one thing to accept that many prolific posters showed a lack of education and emotional intelligence. It’s another to swallow the self-important intellectual and political jousting of those who really do know better. In the USA, politically partisan covidiocy reigned supreme, with dire consequences already obvious to anyone who understood the term “exponential”. For their electoral sins, that didn’t include the Petulant President, who was still struggling to understand the scientific predictions in full view of the world.

At least our PM had a good grasp on the reality of the threat, even if he wasn’t quite fluent enough yet to convey it without notes. Our CMO was even more impressive and reassuring in her delivery, but the story was the same dire prophecy. This full lockdown was the plan for now, whether one hundred percent of the population agreed with the rationale or not. There would be a time for the naysayers to take retribution – at the ballot box, whenever that may be. For now, I wished wholeheartedly for some of my better-educated and influential online friends to find a different way to communicate for the duration of the next few weeks, when this little island was about to be slapped in the Pitons by something worse than a hurricane.

The tsunami of negativity broke me down and I gave in to a long bout of noisy, snotty sobbing that left my eyelids swollen like a busted boxer and did little to alleviate the anxiety. Thoughts of my ‘logical family’ in Gros Islet and Marisule sparked more internal churning and I inwardly cursed out the well-off ignorami that were up to their necks in self-absorption, while many poor people – who didn’t always have one meal a day in normal circumstances – were about to fall through a loose safety net being tightened in real time as new lessons were being learnt.

Messages came in that pandemic pandemonium was rife on our streets, and another level of anxiety formed around my feelings of relief that actually, it was easier to be stuck in this lovely hotel than if I were at home right now. As I howled into the clean, white-cased pillows on one of my two comfy beds, the result of a sleepless night came to my rescue, knocking me out for an hour of deep sleep before room service delivered lunch.

But even the normally-welcomed food seemed to be a trigger today. Rice and peas had been a regular repast from day one, and my Zen Queen self had joked about it while accepting that quarantiners couldn’t be choosers. One look at the boiled rice and yellow split peas set me wailing again, despite being disgusted at the shallowness of my reaction. Two spoonfuls sealed the deal by sticking in my throat. Today I will fast, whispered the Queen, because every disappointment is a blessing.

At which exact moment there was a knock at the door. With no option to ignore it without setting off a ‘missing inmate’ search party to hunt me down, I leapt to answer, copping a glimpse of myself in the mirror looking like the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Bel Jou’s General Manager, Dean, was standing outside, eyes full of concern above his mask, asking “Miss Dee, you ok today? I haven’t seen you.”

There’s nothing like a little empathy to push me over the edge, so I let the tears flow and admitted it wasn’t a good day at all. I even shared my current inability to eat another split pea or grain of rice, despite understanding that the chef was working with limited means. He spoke a few simple words of comfort, pointing out that everyone was bound to have a dark moment or two. Then he asked what I would like to eat, and minutes later returned to my door with a huge green salad dripping with dressing, and I smiled for the first time since the Sri Sri yoga voiceover made me do it.

That gesture of thoughtfulness became the pivot I needed to get back to a better headspace, and the rest of the day was saved from being a blubfest of monumental proportions. When all this is through, I’m going to throw a party for the people at Bel Jou, and Dean will be the guest of honour. When he came back next morning to check on me, he found the Zen Queen had returned, and we had a wee laugh about the pressures of Quarantine-with-a-Capital-Q. Another lady had been having a bad day too, he admitted, so I gave him a bodice-ripper of a novel to pass on in the hope it would help.

Sure, what was there to cry about? Well, everything really, but it wasn’t going to work as a long term coping mechanism.

More to come…